The City of Jonestown, Texas, USA, has been officially designated as an International Dark Sky Community by DarkSky International. Jonestown now joins more than 210 certified International Dark Sky Places worldwide that have demonstrated strong community support for dark sky advocacy and strive to protect the night from light pollution.
Jonestown is located in Travis County on the north shore of Lake Travis (30.4888, -97.9242), just twenty-five miles northwest of Austin. In 1985, rural Jonestown was incorporated into a General Law City and has developed into a well-managed, desirable waterfront community dedicated to harmony with nature and night skies.
City of Jonestown Parks and Recreation Coordinator Ann DaPrato reflects, “The City of Jonestown is a small community with a hometown, country feel. The ability to see the natural night sky will enhance our city’s vision of maintaining a semi-rural feel and fostering a high quality of life for all our citizens.”
The city of Jonestown benefits from its miles of shoreline along Lake Travis and its proximity to the 27,500-acre Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, and the 33,000-acre Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. The Canyonlands are a major component of avian migration routes and serve as part of the national network of lands and waters for conserving, managing, and restoring fish, wildlife, plant resources, and their habitats. Like these two unique preserves, the city takes conservation seriously, protecting our night skies, natural beauty, and wildlife habitat.
Jonestown Mayor Paul Johnson recalls, “Twenty years ago, each year, we would gather our family and, with our blankets, cameras, telescopes, and binoculars, prepare for a night of stargazing and watching meteor showers! This began our family tradition of gathering to enjoy our beautiful night skies. As our community grew, we realized our night skies needed protection from increasing light pollution. The city decided an improved lighting ordinance was necessary. An ordinance that would address light pollution and protect our night sky heritage.”
Mayor Johnson continued, “The city created a volunteer committee, the Jonestown Night Sky Advocacy (JNSA), to educate the community on the importance of responsible lighting, preserving our night sky, and the benefits to our environment. Through their commitment, dedication, and actions, we will continue to enjoy the magic of night skies for years to come.”
In 2021, city personnel, JNSA team members, and DarkSky International associates worked to fashion a better-quality City Lighting Ordinance compliant with DarkSky standards. The ordinance was adopted by the City Council and placed into immediate effect. New construction, major renovation, and all existing city, business, and residential lighting must comply.
JNSA created a baseline inventory of city lighting using light meters, mapping programs, and monitors to evaluate compliance and identify necessary improvements in residential, business, and city-owned lighting. In addition to those efforts, Pedernales Electric Company, Inc. (PECI) changed all PECI-owned street lighting to DarkSky standards. JNSA regularly records the natural night sky with required sky quality metering measurements to ensure continued adherence to these standards.
“Jonestown and dark sky advocates across Texas have demonstrated what is possible through hard work and dedication. With nineteen certified International Dark Sky Places, Texas is a leader in the dark sky conservation movement. The city of Jonestown and the Hill Country region, in particular, have made great strides toward mitigating the impacts of light pollution in one of the most rapidly growing areas of the United States. We are excited to see the advocacy grow and the momentum continue year after year,” Amber Harrison, Dark Sky Places Program Manager, remarked.
JNSA’s primary goal is to raise awareness about the rewards and benefits of dark sky preservation. They enthusiastically reach out with brochures, signage, and social media and actively take part in community festivals, business events, HOA/POA meetings, star parties, and storytelling under the stars. Their fun, energetic, costumed mascot “Starla” is instantly recognizable and beloved by all!
Lecia Ellis, a JNSA leader, comments, “The dedication by my fellow advocates is overwhelming. Through their actions, citizens recognize and understand light pollution and, more importantly, what can be done to improve it. One of the most frequent questions I hear at events is, “I’ve got this neighbor… there’s this light…. what can I do?” It’s individual, it’s personal, and it’s real life! This is the perfect opportunity to communicate our message about light pollution, the responsible lighting solution, and the importance and benefits of our night skies.”
Earning an International Dark Sky Community certification is extremely rewarding, but only the beginning. Our passion for continued improvement, communicating benefits, and heritage preservation is an ongoing, never-ending effort. The support and encouragement of city government, Jonestown citizens, and like-minded Hill Country advocacy groups have been inspiring and motivational. Our dream goal is to encourage other communities to embrace the DarkSky movement and all it entails.
About the International Dark Sky Places Program:
Founded in 2001, the International Dark Sky Places Program is a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas worldwide to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view of and connection to the universe. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.
About DarkSky International:
The mission of DarkSky is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at darksky.org.
Dark Sky Places Program Manager, DarkSky International
+ 1 (520) 347-6363